The aorta is the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
Coarctation is a narrowing of a tube. So coarctation of the aorta is narrowing of the aorta.
What is coarctation of the aorta?
Coarctation of the aorta is a birth defect in which part of a baby’s aorta is narrower than it should be
A narrow aorta blocks the flow of blood to the lower half of the body, including the kidneys, intestines, liver, and legs
The heart works harder to pump blood past the narrowed part of the aorta
The extra work by the heart raises blood pressure in the aorta and its branches
The high blood pressure increases risk of stroke Stroke A stroke is a sudden brain problem that happens when a blood vessel in your brain either gets blocked or breaks open and bleeds. Part of your brain stops getting blood. Brain tissue that doesn't... read more and can eventually strain the heart, causing heart failure Heart Failure Your heart pumps blood to carry oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. Heart failure is when your heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. It doesn’t mean your heart has stopped... read more
Often, children with coarctation of the aorta also have heart defects.
What causes coarctation of the aorta?
Babies who have coarctation of the aorta are born with it. Doctors aren't sure why this happens.
What are the symptoms of coarctation of the aorta?
A baby with mild coarctation of the aorta may not have any symptoms.
If coarctation is more severe, your baby may have:
Fast breathing or shortness of breath
Fewer wet diapers than normal
Lethargy (unusual sleepiness and lack of alertness)
If a child gets older and still has coarctation of the aorta, the child may have symptoms such as:
Leg pains during exercise
How can doctors tell if my baby has coarctation of the aorta?
Doctors suspect coarctation if they hear a certain type of heart murmur (an unusual sound made by abnormal blood flow). Doctors confirm the diagnosis by:
Echocardiography Echocardiography and Other Ultrasound Procedures Echocardiography can be used to detect abnormalities in heart wall motion and to measure the volume of blood being pumped from the heart with each beat. This procedure can also detect abnormalities... read more (ultrasound of the heart)
Sometimes, CT scan Computed Tomography A CT scan uses a large machine shaped like a large donut to take x-rays from many angles. A computer then takes the x-rays and creates many detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Each... read more or MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI is a test that uses a machine with a powerful magnet to make pictures of the inside of your body. A computer records changes in the magnetic field around your body. The computer then uses... read more
Doctors will also do:
ECG Electrocardiography Electrocardiography is a test that measures your heart’s electrical activity. It's quick, painless, and harmless. The results of that test are shown in an electrocardiogram. It looks like a... read more (a painless test that measures the heart’s electrical currents and records them on a piece of paper)
How do doctors treat coarctation of the aorta?
Treatment depends on how severe the narrowing is, exactly where in the aorta the narrowing is located, and what symptoms it's causing. Doctors may:
Give your baby medicines to relieve the strain on the heart
Do surgery to fix the narrow part of the aorta
Sometimes do angioplasty
Angioplasty is a procedure where doctors put a thin tube (catheter) into your baby’s aorta. They widen the aorta by inflating a balloon inserted in the catheter. Sometimes they insert a wire mesh tube (stent) to hold the narrowed area open.